Oscar Watch: One Night in Miami

When it comes to picking up hardware at awards shows for her acting, Regina King has been killing it lately. She’s won three Emmys for two different TV shows in the past half decade and may well win a fourth in a couple of weeks for HBO’s Watchmen. In 2019, King took Supporting Actress at the Oscars for If Beale Street Could Talk.

And now the Venice Film Festival has opened up real possibilities for her feature film directorial debut. One Night in Miami is based on the 2013 stage play by Kemp Powers, who adapted his own work here. It tells the fictionalized story of a real historical meeting involving Cassius Clay (before the name change to Ali) on the night he defeated Sonny Liston for the heavyweight title. The champ met with some other familiar names – Malcolm X, football star Jim Brown, and soul crooner Sam Cooke.

Reviews are out based on the Venice screening and Miami will be traveling to the Toronto  Film Festival later this week. The verdict is strong so far with a 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Simply put, this feels like a legitimate contender for Oscar attention.

The acting placements will be interesting to watch. Of the four leading characters, conventional wisdom is that all four will contend in Supporting Actor. They are Kingsley Ben-Adir as Malcom X, Eli Goree as Clay, Aldis Hodge as Brown, and Leslie Odom, Jr. as Cooke. The whole quartet is receiving raves, but I’d give it a slight edge for Ben-Adir to emerge out of the pack. If he does so, he would be the second performer nominated for playing X behind Denzel Washington for Spike Lee’s Malcolm X. If Goree were to emerge, he would also be the second actor recognized for playing Ali after Will Smith portrayed him in Michael Mann’s Ali. 

Furthermore, a directing nod for King would make its own history as she would be the first African-American female to make the final cut (only five women have been nominated total in the Academy’s history). Powers could in the mix for his Adapted Screenplay and a Best Picture nod seems possible. Also of note: Odom performs a closing credits song titled “Speak Now” which is being mentioned as a probable contender in Original Song.

Bottom line: one night in Venice has upped the visibility for One Night in Miami to be a player on the circuit. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Summer 2010: The Top 10 Hits and More

Today on the blog, we come to the third and final replay of the cinematic summers from 30, 20, and 10 years ago. If you missed my posts covering 1990 and 2000, you may find them right here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/07/18/summer-1990-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/07/25/summer-2000-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

This brings us to 2010 where sequels ruled the top 3 slots and a couple of other significant franchises were born. We also all had our collective minds blown by Christopher Nolan’s brand of time shifting sci-fi action.

As I have with previous entries, I’ll recount the top ten hits, some other notable titles, and the flops of the season. Let’s get at it!

10. The Other Guys

Domestic Gross: $119 million

The buddy cop comedy marked the fourth collaboration in six years between director Adam McKay and his lead Will Ferrell after Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, and Step Brothers. It also marks Ferrell’s first teaming with Mark Wahlberg and the pair would go on to make two successful and family friendlier Daddy’s Home pics.

9. The Last Airbender

Domestic Gross: $131 million

Based on the Nickelodeon animated series, the fantasy adventure marked a departure from M. Night Shyamalan’s twisty suspense thrillers. It did, however, maintain the filmmaker’s recent trend of critically savaged titles (arriving two years behind the lambasted The Happening). It couldn’t match its reported $150 million budget stateside.

8. Grown Ups

Domestic Gross: $162 million

Adam Sandler continued to prove himself review proof with this comedy where he recruited buddies Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, and Rob Schneider for another sizable hit. A sequel followed three years later.

7. The Karate Kid

Domestic Gross: $176 million

Produced by his parents Will and Jada, this retooling of the 1984 blockbuster starred Jaden Smith with Jackie Chan as his mentor. Shot for just about $40 million, it grossed over $300 million worldwide. Surprisingly, a planned sequel never materialized.

6. Shrek Forever After

Domestic Gross: $238 million

Typically a gross of $238 million is quite an achievement, but not necessarily in this case for the Dreamworks animated franchise. Forever grossed less than its three predecessors and generated mixed critical reaction.

5. Despicable Me

Domestic Gross: $251 million

At the start of summer 2010, not many would have have projected this original Illumination Entertainment animated tale would outdo Shrek. Yet that’s exactly what occurred and two sequels and the Minions spin-off franchise have followed.

4. Inception

Domestic Gross: $292 million

Coming hot off the heels of 2008’s The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan had another huge earner in his collaboration with Leonardo DiCaprio. It might have been a challenge to follow the plot, but audiences gave it their best and a worldwide take over $800 million occurred. Multiple Oscar nominations, including Best Picture (though not Nolan’s direction), resulted.

3. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

Domestic Gross: $300 million

2010 found audiences still enraptured by the Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner vampire romance. The third entry in the series set a midnight earnings ($30 million) opening record that stood for a year before Harry Potter swept it away.

2. Iron Man 2

Domestic Gross: $312 million

The Marvel Cinematic Universe was still in its infancy a decade ago as this was the third pic of the bunch. Part 2 posted fine numbers, but was considered a bit of a letdown compared to the first edition. It did mark the first appearance of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and a buff and whip cracking Mickey Rourke as the main villain.

1. Toy Story 3

Domestic Gross: $415 million

Pixar easily ruled the season with the third flick in the studio’s startup series. Arriving 15 years after the original, the return of Woody and Buzz was a critical darling that earned a Best Picture nomination and lots of love from all ages. Part 4 would follow in 2019.

And now for some other noteworthy pictures from the time frame:

Salt

Domestic Gross: $118 million

Arriving two years after her action hit Wanted, this spy thriller hovered just outside the top 10 and managed to just outgross its $110 million budget in North America.

The Expendables

Domestic Gross: $105 million

Sylvester Stallone led a band of action heroes in this early August title that tapped the nostalgia of moviegoers. A pair of sequels followed that would bring in more genre heavy hitters like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Wesley Snipes, Chuck Norris, and Harrison Ford.

Eat Pray Love

Domestic Gross: $80 million

This adaptation of a 2006 bestseller starring Julia Roberts brought in a sizable female audience and hit just over $200 million worldwide against a $60 million budget.

Dinner for Schmucks

Domestic Gross: $73 million

Steve Carell and Paul Rudd headlined this midsize hit that got mixed reviews. It has since turned into a bit of a cult favorite in subsequent years.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Domestic Gross: $31 million

There’s no question that I could have put this teen action romance in the misfires column as it made just a fraction of its $85 million price tag. However, the Edgar Wright title has since achieved significant status as an impressive original work with a major following.

The Kids Are All Right

Domestic Gross: $20 million

This domestic dramedy became a major awards player and was nominated for Best Picture with acting nods going to Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, and Mark Ruffalo.

MacGruber

Domestic Gross: $8 million

Just as with Pilgrim, this SNL spin-off with Will Forte was a financial bomb. Yet it has also turned into a cult classic and there’s a rumored sequel or TV spin-off in the making.

Winter’s Bone

Domestic Gross: $6 million

This indie mystery is notable for introducing Jennifer Lawrence to critics, if not a wide audience. Bone would earn the star her first Oscar nomination in addition to a Best Picture nod. Of course, Ms. Lawrence would break out in the next two years with the X-Men and Hunger Games series and her Oscar victory happened in 2012 with Silver Linings Playbook. 

And now for some movies that didn’t match their expectations:

Robin Hood

Domestic Gross: $105 million

With a budget that may have been as high as $200 million, Robin Hood reunited Russell Crowe with Ridley Scott. A decade earlier, they made Gladiator which was a giant hit that won Best Picture. As for this version of the oft told saga, it’s largely forgotten.

Sex and the City 2

Domestic Gross: $95 million

The second installment cinematically of the beloved HBO series, part 2 made more than $50 million below its predecessor from 2008. Critics also savaged it.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Domestic Gross: $90 million

A hoped for franchise for Disney, the $150 million fantasy pic couldn’t hit the century mark in North America. Lead Jake Gyllenhaal has since expressed his regret for doing it.

The A-Team

Domestic Gross: $77 million

A year after his breakthrough in The Hangover, this action pic based on the 1980s TV series didn’t quite turn Bradley Cooper (alongside Liam Neeson) into an action star. Audience mostly found it, well, expendable.

Knight and Day

Domestic Gross: $76 million

Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz couldn’t provide enough star power for this action comedy to get near its budget north of $100 million.

Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore

Domestic Gross: $43 million

Perhaps nine years was too long a break between sequels. The original family tale was an unexpected hit at $93 million in 2001, but the long gestating sequel didn’t gross half that number.

Jonah Hex

Domestic Gross: $10 million

This DC Comics based title with Josh Brolin in the title role and Megan Fox was an instant flop, barely making eight figures against a $47 million budget. It also held a sad 12% Rotten Tomatoes rating.

And that wraps up my looks at the summers of decades past, folks! I’ll have 1991, 2001, and 2011 recaps up in a year’s time…

Daily Streaming Guide: March 30th Edition

Today’s Streaming Guide focuses on one of the highest quality police procedural thrillers to emerge in recent years and it’s available for viewing on Netflix:

Director David Ayer has most recently been known for working with Will Smith on Suicide Squad and Netflix’s Bright. Prior to that, he specialized in Los Angeles set crime pics. He co-wrote 2001’s Training Day, in which Denzel Washington won the Best Actor Oscar before directing Christian Bale in Harsh Times and Keanu Reeves in Street Kings. 

From the behind the camera, his best of the bunch in my view is 2012’s End of Watch. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena, and Anna Kendrick, this is a gritty genre affair made with style and first-rate performances. It performed decently upon initial release. If you haven’t seen it, End is definitely worth the watch.

That does it for today, folks! Until next time…

Bad Boys for Life Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Update (01/16): Better than expected reviews are pushing my estimate from $38.6 million to $45.6 million

A quarter century after the original made Will Smith an action hero, he teams again with Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys for Life next weekend. This is the duo’s third collaboration playing cops battling European baddies and Michael Bay (who made the first two) is away from the director’s chair with Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah taking over. Franchise players Joe Pantoliano and Theresa Randle are back and newcomers include Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton, and Paola Nunez.

The MLK holiday frame caps off a busy few months for the Artist Formerly Known as Fresh Prince. Last summer, he had a huge hit with Aladdin. In the fall, he experienced a flop with Gemini Man and voiced the lead character in the decently performing family pic Spies in Disguise. 

Back in the spring of 1995, the original Boys took in $15 million for its start with an eventual $65 million gross. Eight years later, Bad Boys II tripled that debut with $46 million with an overall tally of $138 million.

Seventeen years is a long break between entries and 2019 showed us that franchise fatigue was real in many cases. One example was Men in Black: International, which Mr. Smith steered clear from.

Mu guess is that part 3 won’t match its predecessor’s earnings and that’s even with the extra Monday due to the holiday. A decent comp could be Ride Along 2, which made $41 million over MLK four years back. That was under the $48 million that the first Ride hauled in. I’ll say Smith and Lawrence’s reported last ride hovers around the $40 million mark.

Bad Boys for Life opening weekend prediction: $45.6 million (Friday to Monday estimate)

For my Dolittle prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/09/dolittle-box-office-prediction/

Spies in Disguise Box Office Prediction

Opening on Christmas Day, Will Smith and Tom Holland lend their vocal stylings to the animated comedy Spies in Disguise. The pic comes from Blue Sky Studios, who have successfully distributed the Ice Age and Rio franchises. Nick Bruno and Troy Quane make their directorial debuts and supporting mic work comes from Rashida Jones, Ben Mendelsohn, Reba McEntire, Rachel Brosnahan, Karen Gillan, and DJ KHALED!!! (I think I’m contractually obliged to type his name in caps with exclamation points).

Blue Sky’s previous effort was two years ago and it also opened over the holiday season. Ferdinand dared to debut directly against Star Wars: The Last Jedi and managed a $13.4 million opening (lower than the studio is accustomed to). In 2019, competition for Spies is equally fierce. The Rise of Skywalker will be in its second weekend while Jumanji: The Next Level should still be raking in cash in its third frame.

The star power should help a bit and so should the fact that there’s plenty of money to be spent by family audiences over its five-day release. I’ll say a gross in the low to mid teens for Friday to Sunday and that should be matched by a roughly equal amount on Wednesday and Thursday.

Spies in Disguise opening weekend prediction: $13.6 million (Friday to Sunday); $27.4 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my Little Women prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/12/17/little-women-box-office-prediction/

For my Uncut Gems prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/12/22/uncut-gems-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: Spies in Disguise

In December of last year, the non Disney/Pixar animated hit Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse swooped in at the last minute to critical acclaim and took away Best Animated Feature from frontrunner Incredibles 2. 

So it’s at least worth keeping an eye on Spies in Disguise, the comedic kiddie flick from Blue Sky Studios. Could another last minute entry pop up and steal the thunder from another Pixar sequel, Toy Story 4?

Short answer: nope. While the Will Smith and Tom Holland voice led pic has garnered some decent reviews (79% on Rotten Tomatoes), I don’t even feel it’s enough to compete with other likely nominees including Frozen II, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, and Missing Link. For that matter, I’d rank it behind potential contenders that I’m not projecting for the final five like Abominable and Klaus. 

This marks Blue Sky’s 13th full-length feature. Only two (2002’s Ice Age and 2017’s Ferdinand) have gotten the attention of Academy voters. Don’t expect this to be the third. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Gemini Man Box Office Prediction

Arriving just behind his biggest domestic and worldwide grosser Aladdin and just ahead of his long in development sequel Bad Boys for Life, Will Smith headlines the sci fi action thriller Gemini Man next weekend. Itself a project that’s been in the planning for over two decades, double Oscar winner Ang Lee directs this tale of Smith’s aging hitman battling a youthful version of himself. Costars include Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen, and Benedict Wong.

Most of the pic’s publicity has centered around its visual effects and de-aging process with the younger Fresh Prince. Yet the Rotten Tomatoes score is anything but fresh at a troubling 22%. That won’t help with word of mouth for Gemini and I believe that could rule out a start north of $30 million (where some projections are).

Despite his recent exposure in Disney’s billion dollar blockbuster and plenty of success for Smith in this genre, I’ll predict this gets off to a middling debut in the low to mid 20s range.

Gemini Man opening weekend prediction: $22.8 million

For my The Addams Family prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/10/01/the-addams-family-box-office-prediction/

For my Jexi prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/10/02/jexi-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: Gemini Man

Sporting a lowly 29% Rotten Tomatoes ranking prior to its October 11 release, Ang Lee’s Gemini Man is certainly no candidate for Best Picture recognition like the director’s previous works Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain, and Life of Pi. The sci fi action thriller casts Will Smith in an effects heavy experience where the actor plays an aging hitman who must battle a younger version of himself.

While it’s no surprise that the pic won’t contend for top line prizes, Gemini has always been eyed as a possibility for Visual Effects. The 3D high frame per second look is one employed by Lee in his last film Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. That drama was seen as awards bait before poor reviews sunk its viability.

Visual Effects nowadays is a race where there’s usually no shortage of contenders. In 2019, we have the upcoming Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in addition to The Irishman, The Lion King, Avengers: Endgame, and Smith’s own summer blockbuster Aladdin. I believe Gemini could still sneak in the category, but its own negative critical reaction might derail it. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Men in Black: International Movie Review

You won’t need one of those neuralyzer doohickeys to forget Men in Black: International, which extends the rust developed from part two of the franchise on. Will Smith has moved on from this series to dealing with aliens in Netflix pics and being the man in blue in Disney remakes. Tommy Lee Jones has retired as well. So the Marvel Cinematic duo of Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson from Thor: Ragnarok don the sunglasses in this reboot. Their chemistry was better with the MCU team and that movie had a funnier alien in the guise of Jeff Goldblum.

Hemsworth is the hunky Agent H, top operative at the U.K. MiB branch run by Liam Neeson’s High T. Thompson is essentially a fangirl of the super secretive force who’s been aware of their existence since childhood. She recruits herself to the suit and is assigned by Emma Thompson’s Agent O (reprising her Men in Black 3 part) to travel overseas and partner with her Thor. The plot involves stopping a nasty species that goes by the Hive. One of the baddies is an arms dealer played by Rebecca Ferguson that had an inter species love affair with H. Some of the other villains are kept secret for most of the running time, though you’ll see it coming from a galactic mile away. And there’s Kumail Nanjiani voicing the CG creation Pawny. He gets in a few mildly amusing lines.

F. Gary Gray has taken over directorial duties from Barry Sonnenfeld and he doesn’t have to top a high bar of its predecessors. 1997’s original was a fun summer blockbuster melding science fiction and comedy with genuine chemistry from the two leads. I struggle to recall anything about the first sequel. #3 was a slight improvement if only for Josh Brolin’s uncanny impression of a young Tommy Lee Jones.

I doubt many have much of an affinity for this franchise beyond what came 22 years ago. And while International does indeed trot the globe from Paris to London and Morocco and New York to Italy, it mostly feels flat.

** (out of four)

Summer 1999: The Top 10 Hits and More

My recap of the summer seasons from 30, 20, and 10 years ago continues with 1999. It was a banner year for film in general with many acclaimed features hitting theaters at the turn of the century.

If you missed my previous post recounting 1989, you can find it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/07/10/summer-1989-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

As with other look backs, I’ll give the top 10 highest earners along with other notable pics and some flops. Interestingly, the list begins at #10 with probably the most high profile misfire:

10. Wild Wild West

Domestic Gross: $113 million

The July 4th holiday weekend had literally become reserved space for Will Smith. Independence Day in 1996 and Men in Black the following year both came out in that frame and ended up as their summer’s biggest blockbusters. This update of a 1960s TV series cast the Fresh Prince with Kevin Kline and reunited him with MIB director Barry Sonnenfeld. Critics and audiences weren’t impressed.

9. Notting Hill

Domestic Gross: $116 million

Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant were a rom com match in heaven with this well reviewed pic from the writer of Four Weddings and a Funeral. Our lead actress isn’t finished yet…

8. The Blair Witch Project

Domestic Gross: $140 million

Truly a phenomenon upon release, this handheld camera indie supernatural horror tale was made for a reported $60,000. Many audience members thought it was a real documentary and it scared up nearly $250 million worldwide and spawned two lesser regarded follow-ups.

7. Runaway Bride

Domestic Gross: $152 million

I told you we weren’t done with Julia Roberts. This rom com reunited her with her Pretty Woman director Garry Marshall and costar Richard Gere. It might not have captured the acclaim of that flick, but it made plenty of cash.

6. The Mummy

Domestic Gross: $155 million

Loosely updating the 1932 classic, The Mummy managed to turn Brendan Fraser into a temporary action star. Two sequels followed and a spin-off (The Scorpion King) that turned Dwayne Johnson into an action hero.

5. Big Daddy

Domestic Gross: $163 million

20 summers ago marked the height of Adam Sandler’s box office potency. Big Daddy remains his biggest live action grosser of all time.

4. Tarzan

Domestic Gross: $171 million

Disney was still knocking traditional animated hits out summer after summer. Tarzan managed to nab Phil Collins an Oscar for a song contribution.

3. Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me

Domestic Gross: $206 million

The original Powers came out two summers prior. While it performed decently in theaters, it became a massive hit with its home video release. Due to that, this sequel made more in its opening weekend than part 1 achieved in its entire theatrical run. A third edition arrived in 2002.

2. The Sixth Sense

Domestic Gross: $293 million

An unexpected smash, this is the movie that introduced the world to M. Night Shyamalan and the line “I see dead people”. Bruce Willis didn’t get an Oscar nod, but the picture itself did. So too did Shyamalan’s direction, screenplay, and the supporting performances of Haley Joel Osment and Toni Collette.

1. Star Wars: Episode 1The Phantom Menace

Domestic Gross: $431 million

Its reputation certainly hasn’t grown through the years, but George Lucas’s return to the cherished franchise after 16 years easily ruled the summer. We’re still haunted by Jar Jar two decades later.

And now more some other notable titles from the ‘99 season:

American Pie

Domestic Gross: $102 million

The raunchy teen comedy was a surprise smash that introduced us to a new group of young actors and spawned three theatrical sequels and four direct to DVD sequels.

The Haunting

Domestic Gross: $91 million

Jan de Bont followed up mega hits Speed and Twister with this critically unappreciated remake of The Haunting of Hill House. It didn’t reach the heights of those blockbusters, but came close to the century mark domestically.

Deep Blue Sea

Domestic Gross: $73 million

Renny Harlin’s tale involving sharks that could potentially cure Alzheimer’s (yes it’s absurd), Sea is best known for a killer death scene involving Samuel L. Jackson.

The Thomas Crown Affair

Domestic Gross: $69 million

Arriving smack dab in the middle of his Bond run, this remake of Steve McQueen’s heist film was a solid midsize performer.

Bowfinger

Domestic Gross: $66 million

The box office grosses were decent, but Bowfinger gave us a satisfying pairing of two comedic legends in Eddie Murphy and Steve Martin.

Eyes Wide Shut

Domestic Gross: $55 million

The swan song of Stanley Kubrick (who died shortly before release), this dreamlike sexual drama with then married Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman polarized audiences and critics.

South ParkBigger, Longer and Uncut

Domestic Gross: $52 million

The landmark Comedy Central show from Trey Parker and Matt Stone got the big screen treatment and translated well to the multiplex, even nabbing an Oscar nod for Best Original Song (“Blame Canada”).

The Iron Giant

Domestic Gross: $23 million

A commercial failure at the time, this animated pic marked the debut of Brad Bird who went onto helm Pixar classics. Its reputation has grown significantly in time.

Now… let’s recount some flops:

Mickey Blue Eyes

Domestic Gross: $33 million

Hugh Grant had a $100 million plus earner with Notting Hill, but this mob themed comedy was not a hit.

Mystery Men

Domestic Gross: $29 million

Ben Stiller had the previous summer’s largest comedy with There’s Something About Mary. This failed superhero spoof didn’t even make half its budget back stateside.

The Astronaut’s Wife

Domestic Gross: $10 million

This Johnny Depp sci fi thriller is not a title discussed often in his filmography or Charlize Theron’s. There’s a reason.

Dudley DoRight

Domestic Gross: $9 million

The Mummy provided Brendan Fraser with a franchise. This cartoon remake couldn’t hit double digits.

And that wraps my recap! Look for 2009 on the blog shortly…